by Elizabeth Coady
She was one of those little girls whose first stage was her family home, where she sang for her adoring parents. Then she took her performances public, singing at the top of her lungs while swinging in her schoolyard and at her daddy’s Presbyterian church in Cleveland, where he served as pastor and she was a choir member belting out classical hymns.
In high school, Rebecca Myers didn’t skip a beat and joined the choir as a soprano. So when it was time for college, enrolling at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in music education was a logical next step.
“I just never stopped singing,” said Myers, 37, who is proud to be among what she says is an estimated 100 American singers who make their living professionally choral singing. In 2015, the San Francisco Chronicle described her voice as ”an appealing blend of vulnerability and grace.”
Myers is a member of the widely-acclaimed Chestnut Hill chamber choir, The Crossing, which appears regularly at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, as well a founding member of the Philadelphia-based sextet, Variant Six. She is also a soloist who travels to perform at music festivals. Already for 2018 she has 29 singing performances booked, including Lyric Fest on Feb. 10 and 11 and a tour of six dates with the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra Apollo Fire.
As a member of The Crossing, Myers performs new works with a 24-member choir. In 2015, she founded with five colleagues Variant Six, a sextet that strives to create “radically re-imagining concert experiences,” according to the group’s website. The smaller group also performs classical pieces dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries by composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel.
“That’s the era of music that really speaks to me the most,” Myers said. “I’m doing a ton of new music, and I love new music, but I’d love to do more baroque singing.”
After graduating from college in 2002, Myers taught singing in public and private schools in the Cleveland area. Though she loved teaching, the intense demands of the classroom deprived her of the time to pursue her passion.
“Teaching takes so much out of your voice. It’s really difficult to do both,” Myers said. “I ultimately decided I wanted to take a risk and try to sing.”
Seeking a master’s degree in vocal performing, Myers enrolled in graduate school at Temple University in 2008. Afterwards, to support herself, she taught singing classes and worked at El Quetzal, a clothing and gift store in Chestnut Hill, where she lived from 2009 to 2015. (“I love that place,” she said of the store.)
Currently, Myers lives in West Philadelphia with her boyfriend and composer, Benjamin C.S. Boyle. “This is the first year I’m really not teaching,” said Myers. “I’m just singing. It’s a journey because you never really know where your next paycheck is coming from.”
Increasingly, gigs come from making networking and professional connections. Maintaining her own website and accounts on social media like YouTube and Facebook help her connect. “I feel like I haven’t gotten a job from just a cold audition in like five years,” she said. “If you come and do your job and you’re cool, you get referred a lot.”
Being a soprano soloist demands more than a heavenly high voice. Appearance is an element of the art, and Myers says one of the benefits of the job is having a reason to buy high-end dresses that qualify for a tax write-off. “I love that I get to buy fancy dresses and sometimes be fancy,” Myers said. “That’s just part of the job for me.”
She particularly enjoys after-holiday sales when the dresses are marked with deep discounts. “I did a recital with my boyfriend in October and got a great dress for that recital.” Held in an “old beautiful mansion, the dress was perfect for the room.”
Even though surviving on less money is a high-wire act, Myers is enjoying the rewards of her risk. “This is the only thing that I’ve ever really wanted to do,” she said. “Even though it’s risky, and sometimes I don’t have a ton of money, it’s worth it because I love my colleagues and get to do different things all the time.”
And Myers thanks her parents for indulging her love of singing and their unwavering support of her career. “They both sing in community choirs,” she said. “If they could come to every single thing I do, they would … They have been the most supportive of anyone.”
For more information, visit RebeccaMyersSoprano.com